In week 12, Jackson State played on arch-rival Alcorn State’s home field for the first time in 20 years.
Jackson State, playing on arch-rival Alcorn State’s home field for the first time in 20 years, punched its ticket for a return trip to the SWAC Championship Game with a 37-11 victory Saturday that gave the Tigers the East Division title.
The Tigers (7-4, 7-2 SWAC) will play West Division champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the SWAC crown at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 8. It will be the Tigers’ fourth appearance in the title game, their first since 2008. They won the SWAC championship game in 2007.
“It’s great,” said Jackson State coach Rick Comegy, whose team was picked to finish second behind Alabama State in the conference’s preseason poll of coaches and media. “It’s really gratifying. I couldn’t tell you how happy I am.”
Jackson State and Alabama State finished tied for the top spot in the East with 7-2 conference records, but the Tigers held the tie-breaker by virtue of their 35-21 victory against the Hornets last month.
Jackson State and Alcorn had played at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, Jackson State’s home field with the schools alternating as the home team, the previous 18 years in what was billed as the Capital City Classic. Alcorn decided to return the game to Casem-Spinks Stadium, its on campus stadium this year and call it the Soul Bowl, upsetting Jacksonians who take exception to having to drive 90 minutes “to the country’’ for a game.
The trip didn’t faze the team, however. The Tigers, who have won 13 of the last 18 games in the series and the last three in a row, used a pulverizing running game to put away the Braves (4-7, 4-5 SWAC). They chewed up Alcorn’s defense for 243 yards on the ground, led by Rakeem Sims with 152 on 26 carries. Tommy Gooden added 64 on just eight carries. Gooden scored a pair of touchdowns and Sims scored once.
The standing room only crowd of more than 30,000 fans – mostly Alcorn supporters – sensed and upset as the third quarter began. Jackson State was clinging to a 6-3 lead thanks to quarterback Clayton Moore’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Rico Richardson in the first quarter.
But things began to unravel for the Braves on their first possession of the second half. They went three-and-out and were forced to punt from their eight-yard line. Linebacker Ryan Griffin blocked Marcquiso Jean’s punt and Richardson fell on the ball in the end zone. The touchdown started a barrage of 21 unanswered points in a six-minute span for Jackson State that doomed Alcorn to defeat.
Alcorn went three-and-out again on its next possession. Coach Jay Hopson switched punters, but the results weren’t much better. Tollette George got off a 16-yard kick that was downed at Alcorn’s 30. From there it took the Tigers four plays and one minute, 44 seconds to score on Gooden’s 11-yard touchdown run for a 20-3 lead.
Alcorn’s run of bad luck continued when the Braves got the ball back. Terrance Lewis fumbled the ball at the Braves’ 41 after a one-yard gain and linebacker Cameron Loeffler recovered for Jackson State. Gooden scored again four minute later, this time on a 28-yard run, and Jackson State took an insurmountable 27-3 lead.
“It was just a big six-minute swing that kind of crushed us.” Hopson said.
Ryan Deising kicked a 41-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to increase Jackson State’s lead to 30-3. Alcorn scored its only touchdown with 3:52 left when quarterback John Gibbs connected with Tavoris Doss on a 33-yard scoring strike.
Sims ended the scoring with a 46-yard touchdown run for Jackson State with 2:48 remaining.
Bethune-Cookman 21, Florida A&M 16: The MEAC champions, tuning up for the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs, extended a pair of winning streaks with their victory in the Florida Classic in Orlando. The Wildcats (9-2, 8-0 MEAC) ended the regular season with a seven-game winning streak and have won 13 consecutive conference games dating to last season. They will host Big South Conference champion Coastal Carolina (7-4) in a first-round playoff game Saturday. Quarterback Quentin Williams threw for 120 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 86 more to lead the Wildcats, who needed key defensive stop. Florida A&M (4-7, 4-4 MEAC) got the ball for the last time near midfield with 3:49 left in the game. The Rattlers moved to Bethune-Cookman’s 38 and appeared to be poised to take the lead. However, Jarkevis Fields dropped running back Eddie Rocker for a seven-yard loss on first down. On second down, defensive tackle Harold Love sacked Rattlers quarterback Damien Fleming, who fumbled the ball at the Wildcats’ 45, and defensive end Tevin Toney recovered for the Wildcats. The referee initially ruled that Fleming was down. The call was reversed after a booth review (the MEAC allows for reviews in games that are televised) and Bethune-Cookman got the ball and ran out the clock. Florida A&M led in the early going, 3-0 in the first quarter on Chase Varnadore’s 20-yard field goal, and 10-7 at the half after James Owens scored on a 41-yard run. The Wildcats’ touchdown came on a one-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Eddie Poole. Owens’ score ended the Wildcats’ steak of seven consecutive quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown. They were shutout in the second quarter, ending a streak of having scored in 25 consecutive quarters. Bethune-Cookman surged ahead with a pair of quick second-half touchdowns. Isiadore Jackson scored on a 34-yard run with 3:13 left in the third quarter for a 14-10 Bethune-Cookman lead. On the Wildcats’ next possession, Andronicus Lovette scored on a one-yard run to extend the lead to 21-10. Florida A&M climbed back into the game one Fleming’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Dewayne Harvey with 8:04 remaining the game, and the Rattlers trailed 21-16 after the extra point kick was blocked.
Tennessee Martin 35, Tennessee State 26: A furious fourth-quarter rally on the road came up short for the Tigers and cost them a possible FCS playoff berth. Tennessee State (8-3, 4-3 OVC), No. 25 in The Sports Network Top 23 entering the game, trailed 28-6 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Tigers scored on their first three possessions of the period and were a two-point conversion away from tying the game at 28-all. Quarterback Michael German completed 28 of 44 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs, for the Tigers. German’s touchdown pass to tight end A.C. Leonard got Tennessee State within two points of the lead, 28-26 with two minutes remaining, but he was sacked when he dropped back to pass on a two-point conversion attempt. Tennessee Martin (8-3, 6-2 OVC) recovered the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. On fourth-and-two from Tennessee State’s 33, the Skyhawks gambled big and won when quarterback Derek Carr connected with Quentin Sims for a touchdown with a little more than a minute remaining in the game.
Division II Playoff Results
West Alabama 41, Miles 7
Lenior Rhyne 21, Fort Valley State 6
Hampton 27, Morgan State 17
Howard 41, Delaware State 34
North Carolina A&T 22, North Carolina Central 16, OT
South Carolina State 27, Savannah State 13
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 42, Prairie View A&M 41
Auburn 51, Alabama A&M 7
Mississippi Valley State 34, Texas Southern 3
Edward Waters 24, Virginia University of Lynchburg 21
Kentucky State 17, Central State 6